In 2003, United Way of Central Jersey suffered the unexpected passing of our Board of Trustees Chair and Chief Volunteer Officer, Christian C. Kjeldsen. A dear friend and colleague, Christian's wise counsel, good humor and continuous urging for action left us at a loss, but also inspired us to continue his legacy of caring for our children..our future.
In Christian's honor, UWCJ established the Christian C. Kjeldsen Fund for Children. UWCJ has committed to raise ONE MILLION DOLLARS (in addition to our annual campaign) to implement new programs that most effectively meet the needs of the children he cared so very much about.
To identify and prioritize the needs of children residing in the UWCJ service area, a Christian C. Kjedlsen Fund for Children Leadership Council was formed. The Council is comprised of individuals who have longstanding reputations in the advice and guidance of children's issues.
The "2003 Kid's Count New Jersey " report, published by The Association for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ) was the reference material used by The Council to further define critical needs.
The council found that although infant mortality rates dropped significantly in the ten year period between 1990 and 2000, there were increases in the number of children born to mothers without benefit of any prenatal care, and increases in the number of infants born with low birth weight. Also of concern in Middlesex County was the increase in the number of complaints of suspected child abuse and neglect. And a rise in the number of children placed out of their own homes by the state's Division of Youth and Family Services.
Given these results, the council was drawn to the need for greater support systems for infants and their families to insure the best quality of life deserved at the very beginning of their life. The first course of action was to find existing programs that address the many problems that impact infants and their families.
The nationally acclaimed Nurse - Family Partnership (NFP) which specifically targets low income, first time pregnant women, provides comprehensive parenting training and education as well as a range of other supportive services from the twelfth week of pregnancy through the new born child's second year of life. The program, which provides for an intensive schedule of registered nurse visitations to the home, has proven successful both in the short and long term in part by assuring babies get a healthier start, by helping mothers take better care of themselves and by helping children grow into adolescence with fewer problem behaviors.
The council will further monitor Nurse - Family Partnership, to use it as a model program for the first phase of the Christian C. Kjeldsen Fund for Children.
This first step is anticipated as being the beginning of many future programs that will foster a high quality of life for individuals in their early years and to help lay a solid foundation for the rest of their lives.